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Fox's 'Sleepy Hollow' Has Something to Fear: TV's Kickoff Curse
September 16, 2013  | By David Bianculli  | 4 comments

Fox’s new Sleepy Hollow is designed as a scary show, but has something to fear besides fear itself. By being this fall’s first new series to premiere, it’s inheriting TV’s Kickoff Curse…

The Kickoff Curse, essentially, predicts that the first new broadcast series to premiere each fall will not survive to see a sophomore season. As a predictor of TV cancellation victims, it’s been impressively accurate. In 38 years, only six Cursed shows have survived.

Two years ago, the new series that tried, and failed, to defy the Kickoff Curse was the CW’s Ringer, a dopplelganger mystery thriller starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Ringer (right) ended up as a clunker, dumped after one season – and freeing up the former star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to star in one of this season’s most eagerly awaited new shows, CBS’s The Crazy Ones, also starring Robin Williams.

And last year, NBC tried to cash in on the momentum provided by its telecast of the 2012 Summer Olympics, and sneak previewed its new Matthew Perry sitcom, Go On, on August 8, about six weeks before the fall season started officially. Neither the head start nor Perry’s star power helped a bit. By the end of the season, NBC decided that the show Go On must not go on – and cancelled it.

This year, Fox is rolling out Sleepy Hollow early – tonight (Monday, Sept. 16) at 9 ET, to be precise – in hopes of getting some attention before the fall TV competition begins in earnest, and of defying TV’s Kickoff Curse.

Where did this curse come from? Okay, I made it up.

But I made it up a long, long time ago -- back in the 1970s -- and as an early predictor of TV failures, it's statistically rather reliable.

In 2010, for example, the year before Ringer, the first new show out of the box was CW's Hellcats, a show about a brainy student who pays for her college tuition by landing a cheerleading scholarship. In 2009, the freshman loser victimized by the Kickoff Curse was CW's Melrose Place (despite the midseason publicity injection by Heather Locklear, star of the prime-time soap's original 1990s version).

And so on. In 2008, the first-year loser was NBC's America's Toughest Jobs, which a few years later is tough to remember. In 2007, it was Nashville – not ABC’s current soap opera with music, but a very short-lived Fox musical-competition series. And in 2006, it was another Fox series, Vanished. Which did just that.

The last series to defy the Kickoff Curse was Fox's Prison Break in 2005. But overall, the Curse has a fairly high degree of accuracy. In 38 years, only six Cursed shows have survived. That makes the chances for Sleepy Hollow look rather… hollow.

Most prominent among those rare survivors of TV's Kickoff Curse are the CBS sitcom Alice in the '70s, ABC's newsmagazine Primetime Live in the '80s, Fox's sitcom Roc in the '90s, and, in the first decade of the new millennium, the aforementioned Prison Break.

And except for a pair of fairly recent sitcoms from the now-defunct UPN network, Girlfriends and One on One from 2000-01, those are the only survivors of a curse that began way back in 1975, during the Gerald Ford administration.my-so-called-life.jpg

The most famous victims of the Kickoff Curse include ABC's fabulous 1994 teen drama My So-Called Life, starring Claire Danes (seen at left, now in Showtime's Homeland); 1984's Call to Glory, an ABC drama starring Craig T. Nelson that explored the Kennedy-era 1960s the way Mad Men is doing now; and 1990's Hull High, the NBC series that was the last show to attempt a weekly high-school musical series until the current Glee.

For the record, and for your amusement, here's the complete list of shows that faced the Kickoff Curse, along with their respective fates. Only shows which are underlined survived the curse.

Remember any of these? If most of the names don't ring a bell... well, that's the point.


2013.....Fox.....Sleepy Hollow (fate unknown)
2012.....NBC.....Go On
2009.....CW.....Melrose Place
2008.....NBC.....America's Toughest Jobs
2005.....Fox.....Prison Break
2004.....Fox.....North Shore
2002......WB.....Family Affair
2001.....UPN.....One on One
1999.....UPN.....Grown Ups
1998.....Fox.....Holding the Baby
1997.....UPN.....Good News
1996.....Fox.....L.A. Firefighters
1995.....Fox.....The Crew
1994.....ABC.....My So-Called Life
1993.....Fox.....Front Page
1992.....ABC.....Covington Cross
1990.....NBC.....Hull High
1989.....ABC.....Primetime Live
1988.....NBC.....Baby Boom
1987.....NBC.....Private Eye
1986.....CBS.....The Wizard
1984.....ABC.....Call to Glory
1983.....NBC.....We Got It Made
1982.....NBC.....The Powers of Matthew Star
1981.....ABC.....Best of the West
1980.....CBS.....Ladies' Man
1978.....NBC.....Dick Clark's Live Wednesday
1977.....CBS.....The Betty White Show
1975.....CBS.....Big Eddie

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240-Robert (barely) survived the curse.

Sep 19, 2013   |  Reply
Two word review: headless horse$%#@. Or heedless. Take your pick.
Sep 18, 2013   |  Reply
Sam Tomaino
"Sleepy Hollow" has more to fear than that: bad writing and boring leads. In his opening statement, Ichabod uses such words as "defected" and "triage." I don't think either would have been used by a man of 1781.
We are also told that his wife was burned as a witch, somethig which did not happend even in the madness of 1690 Salem. Also, there were many people executed for witchcraft in Sleep Hollow as last as 1821. That's more ridiculous history.
Sep 17, 2013   |  Reply
Jay Gold
You need context to say whether there really is a Kickoff Curse. In particular, you need to know how many of ALL shows (including shows that did not start the season) have survived. If only 16% of all shows survive, then that would predict exactly the numbers you give. OTOH, if 30% of all shows survive, but only six of 38 kickoff shows, then that would give credence to the curse.
Sep 16, 2013   |  Reply
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